Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Bad Teachers Can't Be Fired: Union Power

Margaret Wente has a column in today's Globe and Mail, which identifies the problem with the Canadian public education system as the teacher's unions, as I argued in a post the other day.  She offers no solutions: apparently the obvious cannot be said out loud in the mainstream media yet.  But the fact remains that no significant improvement to the public school system will be possible until the teacher's unions are broken. 

She writes:
Bad teachers are well defended by their unions, which makes it so hard to get rid of them that powerless school administrators generally give up. Instead, they try to get the bad eggs to move on – a process widely known as “passing the trash.” The regulators are captives of the unions, too. The OCT is dominated by former union executives who caucus together before meetings to hammer out the party line. In theory, their job is to serve the public. In reality, they serve their own.
The Star’s embarrassing revelations prompted the OCT to hire a distinguished retired judge, Patrick LeSage, to tell it how to reform itself. His sensible suggestions, released last week, are a laundry list of the obvious: Disclose the names of all teachers found guilty of misconduct, hold formal public hearings for the most serious cases and revoke the licences of teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct. He also recommended that more non-teachers should sit on the panels that hear misconduct cases.
But these measures don’t go far enough. So long as the unions are allowed to dominate the regulator, “no procedural overhaul, no matter how ingenious or rigorous, is likely to lead to increased effectiveness or public confidence,” writes Doretta Wilson of the Society for Quality Education.
 Why she cannot draw the obvious conclusion is that left-wing ideology is so powerful in this country that we cannot even talk about the necessary steps we need to take to promote educational reform.  This is a sad commentary on late modern Canada.

Cross-posted at The Bayview Review

The Orwellian "Human Rights Code" is Finally Being Amended - Though a Free People Would Abolish it Altogether

File this one under "Let's be thankful for small mercies."  The odious section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Code is finally being repealed.  It is a good day for liberty and liberalism in Canada.  The Socialists, of course, are in mourning.  Jonathan Kay of The National Post writes:

Five years ago, during testimony in the case of Warman v. Lemire, Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) investigator Dean Steacy was asked “What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?” His response: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”
Those words produced outrage. But there was a grain of truth to what Mr. Steacy said: For decades, Canadians had meekly submitted to a system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups. All that was required was a complainant (often someone with professional ties to the CHRC itself) willing to sign his name to a piece of paper, claim he was offended, and then collect his cash winnings at the end of the process. The system was bogus and corrupt. But very few Canadians wanted to be seen as posturing against policies that were branded under the aegis of “human rights.”
That was then. Now, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the enabling legislation that permits federal human-rights complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet,” is doomed. On Wednesday, the federal Conservatives voted to repeal it on a largely party-line vote — by a margin of 153 to 136 — through a private member’s bill introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth. Following royal assent, and a one-year phase-in period, Section 13 will be history.
Freedom of speech is an "American concept"?  I have news for Mr. Steacy: freedom of speech is a human right guaranteed by God, not the American constitution.  Mr. Steacy can take it up with God if he wishes, although it is likely he is as anti-God as he is anti-American.  People like him prefer to worship the State.

Mark Steyn adds his two cents worth and in the process has a go at a Socialist is disappointed at outbreak of freedom and who wants the government to be have the power to "educate" us:
 This twit from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is a good example of what we’ve been up against:
New Democrat public safety critic Randall Garrison said Wednesday that, due to the large number of hate crimes, the human rights commission needs to have the power to combat the issue online and force individuals and groups to remove websites containing hateful speech.
Removing the sections from the human rights code will effectively strip the commission of its power to educate Canadians and shut down inappropriate websites, he said.
“We do have a serious problem,” Garrison said. “If you take away the power to take (websites) down, it’s not clear they have any mandate to even to talk to people about it and educate them about it.”
Clear off, you twerp. I don’t want the state to have a “mandate” to “educate” the citizenry about their thought-crimes. Even if I did not object on principle, one thing I’ve learned during this five-year campaign is that the statist hacks Canada’s official opposition is so eager to empower are, almost to a man, woman and pre-op transsexual, either too stupid or bullying to be entrusted with the task. Mr Garrison himself would appear to be a fine example of the former, at least.
If it’s a choice between an unlovely citizenry with all its flaws or an overbearing state policing their opinions, I know which is the lesser evil. What a shame a “progressive” “liberal” “socialist” like Randall Garrison has such a low opinion of his fellow citizens.
The State is not the guarantor of our freedoms; it is the chief danger to the theft of our freedoms.  Instead of "freedom from religion," which secularists are always pushing, we need "freedom from soft totalitarianism in the country.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It is Time for Educational Reform: Don't Privatize It - Parentize It

Bill 13 passed the Ontario Legislature this week.  The bill requires all schools, even Catholic ones, to set up "Gay-Straight Alliance" clubs to propagandize for the homosexual acts as natural and good purportedly so that children and teens who experience any signs of gender confusion will be encouraged to be proud of their "sexual identity."  Of course, the real purpose is to silence opposition to the agenda of the pansexualist revolution that seeks to undermine traditional marriage and family as structures of oppression.

Last year the Ontario government implemented JK-12 sex education programs designed to teach that sex is good as long as you use contraception at various points in the curriculum so that parents cannot remove children from specific sex education classes.  The purpose here is to break down natural and normal shame and embarrassment about sex so that sex can become just another bodily function like taking a drink of water.  For 3000 years (or more) civilization as surrounded sex with taboos and mystery because it is so important to society and to the individual but all this "superstition" is now to be swept away.  The point is to talk about it endlessly so as to make it seem coarse, physical and trivial.

The government is so infiltrated by the new neo-pagan religion of secularism that is is no longer even making a pretense of recognizing the natural right of parents to raise their own children as they see fit within their own culture and religion.  This same government covers up its cultural imperialism and denial of religious liberty with the facade of "multiculturalism," which in modern-speak is just another word for moral relativism.  Make no mistake, this is not liberal democracy.  It is the totalitarianism of the progressive state with its myth of progress by the rule of experts.

Many Canadians, even Christians, have been brainwashed into accepting the nationalization of education by the government as normal.  But it is not; it is tyranny.

But there is hope and it comes from the Republican candidate for president, who is running on education reform.  See Mitt Romney's "Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education."  It is 34 pages of common sense and it exudes the air of liberal democracy, toleration and reason.  It is not the theocratic imposition of Christianity on society as a whole; irrational Canadian prejudices against Republicans notwithstanding.  Far from it.  It reverses the top-down, bureaucratic, State controlled, union-directed nature of contemporary American education.  It is anti-totalitarian and parent-centered.  The goal is not to "privatize" education, but to "parentize" it. 

Peter Ferrara has an excellent three page summary of the plan here in American Spectator entitled "Romney's Education Choice."  He summarizes the problem as Romney sees it:
Romney's 34-page white paper explaining the reform proposals, "A Chance for Every Child," begins by explaining what is at stake: "Only 2 percent of those who graduate from high school, get a full time job, and wait until age 21 and get married before having children end up in poverty. By comparison, that figure is 76 percent for those who fail to do all three."

And it explained the problem, saying:
Across the nation, our school system is a world leader in spending yet lags on virtually every measure of results…. On the latest international PISA test, American high school students ranked 14th out of 34 developed countries in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. China's Shanghai province led the world in all three subjects, outperforming the United States by multiple grade levels in each."
Performance of our current public school system is so bad, it's a civil rights problem:
Our K-12 system also poses one of the foremost civil rights challenges of our time: the achievement gap facing many minority groups. The average African American or Hispanic student performs at the same level in 12th grade that the average white student achieves in 8th grade. More than one in three African American and Hispanic students fails to graduate from high school within four years of entering…. The tragic result is that instead of providing an escape from the cycle of poverty, our educational system is reinforcing it.
Schools are failing.  That is not news.  So what is the solution?  The Teacher's unions always tell you the same old tired story: higher taxes and more spending on education is needed.  But this has been tried, both in the US and Canada for 50 years with worsening results.  Ferrara writes:

The root of the problem is not lack of resources: "The cause is not a lack of public investment: as a nation we spend over $11,000 annually on each student enrolled in K-12 education, more than almost any other country." Romney's White Paper adds:
We spend two and a half times as much per pupil today, in real terms, as in 1970, but high school achievement and graduation rates have stagnated. Higher spending rarely correlates with better results. Even the liberal Center for American Progress acknowledged in a recent study that "the literature strongly calls into question the notion that simply investing more money in schools will result in better outcomes," and reported from its own research that most states showed "no clear relationship between spending and achievement."
Romney adds further: "Despite spending more than twice as much per student as other developed countries, our degree attainment lags behind.
No, the real problem is not too little spending on education; the real problem is teacher's unions.  The system is set up for the benefit of the adults, not for the benefit of the kids.
Romney commendably did not shrink from identifying the real root of the problem -- teachers unions. The campaign White Paper says:
Unfortunately, rather than embracing reform and innovation, America remains gridlocked in an antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions representing teachers. The teachers unions spend millions of dollars to influence the debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve. The efforts of teachers will be central to any successful reform, but their unions have a very different agenda: opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability….[T]eachers unions are consistently on the front lines fighting against initiatives to attract and retain the best teachers, measure performance, provide accountability, or offer choices to parents.
Public sector employees should never have been unionized and they should not have collective bargaining privileges.  Those are fine for the private sector where there is a built-in incentive to be reasonable; if the unions demand too much the company goes bankrupt and they lose their jobs.  There workers need protection against exploitation and unions create a balance of competing interests.

But public sector unions collect large amounts of money from the rank and file (often involuntarily) and then give it to political candidates who promise to give the unions higher and higher wages and benefits.  This is a scam.  Since it is the public purse, everyone thinks there is no end to the money tree. 

So working class parents pay higher taxes so that teachers can retire early with fat pensions AND at the same time are haughtily told that they have no say in how their children are educated even to the point where the school system is teaching against their religious faith.  Unions and government bureaucracy insulate school administrators from the wishes of parents and thus doubly oppress ordinary people by exploiting them financially and denying them their human rights as parents.

How would Romney's plan work?
The federal government spends more than $25 billion a year, two-thirds of its funding for K-12 education, through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) focused on students from low income families and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Romney proposes to change the law to provide this funding to the schools that the low income and special needs children and their families choose, tying the dollars to each child rather than to each school. They can choose any public or charter school anywhere in the state, as they prefer, or any private school in the state if permitted by state law. States would have to adopt these choice policies to receive the federal funds.
States would also have to remove all caps on charter schools, and provide funding to charter schools under the same formula that applies to all other publicly supported schools, including access to capital funds. This ensures that low income and special needs children will have a full scope of choices available to them.
The government would provide equal funding for every child; parents would decide where this funding would be spent.  Schools would need to compete or go under.  The incentives would shift away from the priorities of adults to the priorities of educating children effectively. 

It is shocking to realize that big unions and left-wing interest groups are determined to everything in their power to prevent this from happening.  The prefer to spout noble-sounding rhetoric while exploiting poor children and parents.  They have a deep incentive to protect the status quo; but they simply must be defeated for the sake of the common good.

What would be some of the benefits of such a system? Ferrara writes:
In this new environment, the combined choices of parents, students and families would automatically work school reform. Funding would automatically and immediately flow to the schools that best satisfied parents and students with the best teaching methods, materials, and subject matter. Schools that failed to change and serve would automatically lose funding. If they persisted in failing, they would ultimately lose their students to other, better performing schools, and have to close.

This system would also promote decentralized experimentation and innovation, allowing more scope and opportunity for the demonstration of the virtue of new ideas and innovations. Experienced teachers with better ideas for instruction could more easily start their own schools to demonstrate the superiority and appeal of their innovations. The system would also allow for decentralized flexibility, with different schools striving to maximize the cultivation and flourishing of different talents and abilities, whether in math, science, music, the arts, or other disciplines. Competing schools would be tailored to the needs and skills of children, not one size fits all from a government monopoly that leaves many behind because the material is too easy or too hard.

Every child is different. Some kids have learning disabilities. Some boys need strict discipline and should not be in coed schools. Some kids have a special talent for music, talent, entrepreneurship, sports, vocational skills. Some families want religious education, others don't. Some need individualized attention. Some have severe behavior problems that can be overcome with the right stylized program. With school choice as Romney has proposed, parents and students could then each pick the school that best served their particular needs and preferences.
It is breathtaking to imagine the wonderful benefits such a system would provide.  It would strengthen families, empower parents, provide opportunities to children stuck in failing schools and it would permit appropriate diversity in the educational system.  The one-size-fits-all model of socialized education is a relic of the industrial era and needs to be abandoned.  For heaven's sake: the Berlin Wall fell 23 years ago!  It is time to let our children go! 

I pray that Mitt Romney is elected in November and that he is successful in implementing this vision.  It this happens, I predict it will be wildly successful and popular.  And that will give us, who desire educational reform here in Ontario a working model to point to as the better way.  The union dinosaurs will undoubtedly fight real progress because their perks are at stake, so it will require perseverance and determination to bring about real, democratic reform.  But the future of our country and the liberty of our people is at stake.

(See also Keith Fournier's take on the Romney plan.)

Cross-posted at The Bayview Review.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Christianity Under Attack from the Neo-Pagan Religion of Secularism

Solzhenitsyn predicted it.  In his famous 1978 Commencement Address at Harvard, A World Split Apart, he chose not to pander but to tell the truth that a secularized, left-leaning intellectual elite did not wish to hear.  He assessed the spiritual and moral health of the West and found it wanting. 

He told us that, while the Western democracies opposed the political and economic systems of tyranny that held sway in the USSR, the conditions that undermined the moral foundations of the Communist world and made it possible for governments to enslave their populations were being recklessly replicated in the West: materialism, legalism, a false view of freedom as will-to-power, and, most important of all, atheism.  For Solzhenitsyn, the tragedy of Soviet totalitarianism is not caused by misguided men choosing to implement a flawed economic or political model, as if a few tweaks could rectify the situation.  No, the source of tyranny lies deeper and on this deeper level the West is sliding toward the materialistic humanism that always trends left. 

This analysis explains why the Christian Church in Europe and North America is under attack today.  The Church, along with the Family, are obstacles to the total rule of the "progressive state."  The Church impedes the full triumph of the neo-Pagan religion of Secularism and the enshrinement of the All-Powerful Leviathan as the source of law, value and power. 

In the United States, the Obama administration is trying to force Catholic (and Evangelical) colleges, hospitals and social service agencies to dispense contraceptives, including abortion poisons, to its employees.  Is the reason a desperate lack of access to contraception in the United States?  No, hardly, it is rather an attempt to break the will of the Church hierarchy and to send the message that Caesar decides doctrinal issues, not the Bishops.  No one should doubt that if they get away with it, sometime in the near future they will be forced to pay for abortions.  They may stop at forcing bishops into abortion clinics to personally assist in late-term abortions, but in principle there is no limit on their power to do so, from their point of view.   Forty-three Catholic organizations are suing the federal government and stand a good chance of winning. 

In Ontario, Catholic schools are being forced to allow student clubs celebrating the glories of sodomizing one another in plain contravention of Church teaching.  Why?  Because the forces of secularism wish to provoke the Catholic bishops to either capitulate to the principle that the State now decides what doctrine may be taught in what context or else provoke the Church to fight back, which will provide a pretext for defunding Catholic schools and bringing all education under Caesar's control.  It is thus a win-win for secularism.

In New Brunswick, Crandall University is under attack for holding to 3000 years of Judeo-Christian moral teaching on sexuality by making it a condition of employment that faculty not engage in adultery, fornication and, oh yes, homosexual acts.  As I predicted years ago, the attack is coming from the students, who, shaped by 12 years of pro-sexual revolution, secular humanist education, expect the university to conform slavishly to its secular environment because, well, dissenting from the majority is just so inconsistent with critical thinking . . . or something like that.

In Great Britain, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is warning that Christians are being "vilified" and "driven underground" by secularist forces intent on removing the right of Christians to express their long-standing, orthodox beliefs in public.   A specific list of cases can be found here, which is far from exhaustive.  As one example, a counselor was fired from her job for failing to give two homosexuals "sex advice."  Who knew that homosexuals were actually dying for sex advice from up-tight, traditionalist Victorian prudes?  You don't suppose it might have been political, do you?

If Christianity is under assault all over the Anglosphere, you can be sure that is not because people want more religious freedom.  They want the same amount of religious freedom but with Christians on the receiving end of persecution, which is to say that they want the neo-Pagan religion of Secularism to be the State religion instead of Christianity.  The shift that occurred in the fourth century under Constantine and later Theodosius is being reversed.  The pagan morality of ancient Greco-Roman civilization is making a comeback as humane, just, merciful Christian laws are reversed one by one.  Christian Pregnancy Help Centers are the contemporary equivalent of first century Christians going out to the garbage dump of Rome to rescue unwanted infants abandoned to death by pagan parents.

This suggests that liberal toleration does not work when leftist, secular, materialistic, atheistic activists are concerned.  They don't want toleration; they want to stamp out Christianity.  But Solzhenitsyn told us this was the case.  To reject God is not the same as being neutral toward God; those who reject God crave social approval to replace the Divine approval they have forfeited.  They need their false god - the State - to smile on their lifestyle choices and the emphasis is on the word "need."   This makes secularism dangerously intolerant - like a number of other threats the free peoples of the world have had to face including Islam, Communism and Fascism. 

We managed to see off Fascism in 1945 and Communism in 1989, but Islam is a perpetual external threat as it has been for 1400 years.  It is not difficult, however, to see a spiritually healthy West continuing to stand up to Islamic terror.  But the internal threat from Secularism is more serious than all the other ones combined.  This is how vibrant civilizations die: by a thousand self-inflicted wounds from within, not by external conquest.  Solzhenitsyn was prophetic about our plight; our fate, however, is still undecided.  May God, if it be His will, grant a revival of Christian faith in the West that puts atheism and secularism in the shade.   If not, God will still be God regardless of what happens to the West.

Cross-posted at The Bayview Review